Lancaster Jethawks Year in Review (and 2012 Preview)

Here's a review of how the boys in hitter-friendly High A Lancaster performed in 2011:

Lancaster finished the 2nd half at 27-43, tied with High Desert for last place. On to the player performance reviews:

Catcher: Ben Heath was demoted halfway through the season. His 775 OPS wasn't all bad, and I suspect he'll get another crack at the Cali league next year. Rene Garcia, 21, known for his defense, hit .242. He may get moved up to AA to back up Chris Wallace next year, or he could repeat Lancaster and try to raise his offensive value. Feddy Hernandez's stock took a huge dive after tanking at both Corpus and Lancaster. At 23, he's a non-prospect at this point. Jordan Comadena, 25, had a pretty good offensive year, hitting .295. He's a little old and it's obvious the organization doesn't think much of him, as they've bounced him around quite a bit.

1B: Kody Hinze destroyed the Cali league before getting promoted to AA. Jonathan Singleton picked up where he left off. The former Phillie prospect hit .333 with 4 HR in 35 games. He may start at Lancaster again, but could move quickly if he does well, ending up in Houston by 2013.

2B: Jose Altuve started his journey to HOuston this year by dominating high A. He was repalced by Jose Thompson, who also did well. After posting an 809 OPS, the 24 year old will need to put up good #'s in AA next year to have a major league future.

3B: Jon Meyer had what I consider to be a solid year. The 20 year old posted career highs in OPS, OBP, SLG, HR, and BA. He may be the best 3rd base prospect in the system, and I can't wait to see how he does in Corpus next year. David Flores and Andy Simunic both shared backup 3B duties after being demoted from AA. Flores did show nice power, hitting 18 HR between Corpus and Lancaster. He may get another crack at AA in 2012. Simunic may also move up after hitting .295, although at 26, he's too old to hope for much more develompent. One interesting prospect was Eric Castro, who hit .259 with 9 HR in 77 games. He returned from injury and if he can stick at 3B, he may have a future. He'll probably be in Corpus next season.

SS: Jon Villar was the starting SS to begin the year; he was moved up to AA at midseason and appears to be the Astros' SS of the future. Jio Mier took his place and struggled. The former 1st round pick hit .233 with only 2 HR. But at 21 yrs old, he should have another season or two to try to get things to click. Depth prospect Miguel Arrendell hit .281 and may be back next season in a utility role.

OF: Jake Goebbert started in high A, dominated, and eventually conquered AA and finished the year in AAA. He may be in Houston sometime next year. Austin Wates showed some nice attributes in his 1st full season, hitting .300 with 6 HR. The speed is there, and if he can stick in CF and/or add some additional HR power, look out. He will be in AA next year. As mentioned in the Lexington review, Jay Austin had a terrible 2011 and was demoted. Grant Hogue did nothing to show he was more than filler. Dan Adamson was promoted from Lexington late in the year and struggled in his 58 ABs, hitting .155. Adam Bailey got 128 ABs before his promotion to AA, and could be an under-the-radar prospect.

Rotation: The star of the pitching staff was groundballer Jake Buchanan. He was able to avoid the typical ravaging in High A and threw a 3.91 ERA season over 25 starts before being promoted to AA. The durable righty profiles as a future #4 pitcher. The other starting pitchers in Lancaster all struggled mightily, with none of the regulars having an ERA under 6. Jose Cisnero, a 22 year old with ace potential, logged an excellent strikeout rate but struggled with consistency issues. He's one whose stock could explode in Corpus next year. Andrew Robinson mixed in a couple of good outings in the midst of his 6.29 ERA 1st full season. His K:BB ratio was fairly good, so it'll be interesting to see where he gets placed next season and how he responds. Robby Donovan and Zach Grimmett are non-prospects who didn't do much to change the perception of their ability this year. Wes Musick, a prospect acquired in the Matt Lindstrom trade, did very well after being slotted into the rotation late in the year. The lefty has potential both in the bullpen and as a starter. 4th round pick Bobby Doran struggled with injury and performance and will likely be back at Lancaster again if he is not bussed down to Lexington.

Outside of Chris Hicks, who did really well in his return from injury and was eventually promoted to AA, the bullpen faired poorly. Among pitchers who may have shown enough to keep moving up were lefty Wander Alvino (4.19 ERA), former AA starter Kyle Greenwalt, and LOOGY Pat Urckfitz.

There wasn't a lot of juice left in the roster at the end of this season, outside of Singleton. Buchanan and Wates are good prospects, and Mier, Meyer, and Thompson are all worth watching.

Here's a guess at who could be manning the Jethawks roster to start 2012:
C: Heath/McCurdy- Heath gets another shot, and I expect him to do well. Up in the air who the backup will be, I went with McCurdy but it could be Garcia, Hernandez, Pena, Hamblin, or even Bubby Williams, among others.
1B: Singleton- he'll start out repeating high A so the organization can get a better feel for him, Wallace, and Hinze. I suspect he won't be there long before moving on to AA, after which Telvin Nash will take over.
2B: John Hinson- since DeShields doesn't appear ready to move up, Hinson slots in after an adequate showing in Tri-City. Alex Todd will serve as a utility infielder.
SS: Mier- tries to get back on his original track. I'm optimistic for a breakout season. Ben Orloff will the be backup as he was in Lexington.
3B: Mike Kvasnicka- tries to resurrect his career in the hitter friendly league. I'm not as optimistic.
RF: Domingo Santana- my pick for 2012 High A MVP, if he keeps doing what he did in 2011, he'll tear up this league and move on to AA in short order.
CF: Adamson/Emilio King- both did really well in Lexington, so there's no reason to think they won't excel here. Both also may be limited defensively.
LF: Telvin Nash/Rafael Valenzuela- both are probably more suited to 1B, but until Singleton moves on, they'll have to play LF and DH to get regular at-bats.

Rotation: Nick Tropeano, Kyle Hallock, Ruben Alaniz, Carlos Quevedo, and Bobby Doran. A lot of this is still very much up in the air, but it will be some combination of the Lexington rotation and the Tri-City college arms. I expect it to be much better than the 2011 rotation.

Bullpen: Alex Sogard, Murilo Gouvea, Gabe Garcia, Dave Martinez, Brien Streilen, Jorge De Leon, Jason Chowning. Again, this is a crapshoot, but all those arms did well in Lexington, so the natural progression would be for them to move up to Lancaster.
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